Sometimes people email me and they are like “HEY I AM GOING TO QUEBEC” and I am like “AWESOME” and then I type them up an email of everything I think they should do. From now on, I’ll just send them here:
For the non-vegetarians, Schwartz’s Deli has classic smoked meat sandwiches.
Robin Des Bois has great vegetarian options, and it’s just up Boul St.-Laurent. (I am like 99% certain that I have eaten there .. so this recommendation comes from the time I think that I ate there. Perhaps EZH can confirm.)
Boul St.-Laurent is fun to walk. It has lots of shops and thrift stores and restaurants.
Old Montreal is touristy, with lots of great street performance and circus shows (in part because of Cirque de Soleil! But maybe that’s a chicken-and-egg problem). Some of the scenes from the classic Canadian Studies film “Bon Cop, Bad Cop” take place in the port area of Old Montreal.
I once went on an “underground Montreal” tour once which was very good. Can’t seem to find a link, but Montreal is a great place to get a walking tour for architecture and / or history if you dig that sort of thing.
McGill University is pretty nice if you enjoy strolling around campuses. They have a pretty neat free museum called the Redpath that’s full of all sorts of objects, animal, vegetable, mineral, origami, and other.
Across the street from McGill University is the excellent McCord Museum. Fun to visit if you are interested in Montreal history. They had an exhibit about toys, games, and comic books last time I was there.
Food is almost uniformly excellent. Shwarma is inexpensive and abundant. Poutine is delicious. La Belle Province looks sketchy, but they have great poutine that’s very inexpensive because it’s such a sketchy looking chain.
The mountain, Mont Royal, is great to walk up if you enjoy scenic panoramas. To walk up Mont Royal, I like the path that starts behind the McGill residences (dorms). Walk uphill on University, past rue Pins, on the road that goes to the dorms. Behind the dorms, slightly left, is an opening (a legit opening) in the fence, and that gets you on the trail. Go left (or “up!”) to the top for great views. There is usually ice cream and water bottles for sale at the top, but it’s wise to bring water and a snack with you if you like to go at a slower pace. With the exception of short cuts and staircases, the path is generally wide and paved, but it’s wise to watch out for horses, cyclists, and / or sleds, depending on the season.
St. Joseph’s Observatory is a loooong walk from downtown, but nice if you like to look at old churches and relics.
St. Catherine’s is a fun street to stroll down for shops and strip clubs, as you like. I like to poke around comic book shops and bookstores in every city, but I suppose that varies by person. There’s also an underground path connecting most of the major shopping centers (if it’s too cold out — or too hot!).
Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Québec is really awesome if you are in to libraries — for the books, the newspapers and magazines, and for the architecture.
Can’t find the link, but you used to be able to walk in and watch NFB films in your own little chair (or with a friend on a neat double-chair). Any Montrealers know if this is still open? If it is, it’s a great way to pass a rainy afternoon (or watch obscure stuff that’s required for your doctoral program in Canadian Studies).
The Biosphere is a surprisingly awesome museum devoted to water. It’s a bit far from the city, on a neighboring island, but worth it if you’re into science and geodesic domes and playing with toilets in a museum setting (for real).
The Biodome is fine if you are in to zoos, but it’s also a bit far and a bit pricey. My main memory of my only trip to the Biodome is seeing a sad, sad penguin in the corner, like in “Happy Feet” but without the “happy” part.
There’s an indoor ice skating rink… and an outdoor market by Atwater that has food and crafts.
During the summer, you will likely happen upon loads of festivals in the middle of the street – music, comedy, you name it.
Peel Pub is gross – avoid. Very inexpensive, but I’ve heard that they recycle their pitchers. Pretty sure that was a fact featured in the McGill University handbook, so I didn’t make it up, at least.
Quebec City is, and this bears repeating, amazing, amazing, amazing. The whole place is like something out of a video game or history book. (The tourism website tagline is: “So Europe. So close.” They could have added “So doge.” but I digress.)
I’d recommend a tour of the city, but even just wandering around is fun! I’ve only really hung out there as a tourist, but there’s lots to wander around and see – murals, shops, the port, an old church where they give you a tiny ball of bread (word to the wise: don’t eat it when you rediscover it under your couch years later), and generally scenic scenery.
I recommend crepes at Le Restaurant Le Petit Château and according to Trip Advisor the other place that I was going to suggest is closed.
I haven’t been to le Musée de la civilisation à Québec yet, but I am willing to guess it’s great.
Montmorceny Falls is not far if you like nature hikes (or scaling ice, weather permitting).
You can always read more about the city in the forthcoming book Reflecting on the Other National Capital: Quebec City-Ottawa. :-)